Thursday 12 December 2019

The 150-year-old envelope worth more than its weight in gold

Dunedin, New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dick Barton

IT cost just six pennies to send from New Zealand to Kilkenny, but now - 150 years later - it is one of Ireland's most valuable envelopes.

Simply addressed to Michael Keogh, Rathbourne, Kilkenny, Ireland, the envelope sold for €1,058 at an auction at Spink in London on Thursday.

At first glance the envelope, slightly stained and frayed around the edges, does not look that remarkable, but its "very rare" mail bag seal hand-stamp featuring the words 'Manuherikia/Junction N.Z.' makes it valuable and "unique", according to auctioneers.

The envelope, with its sixpenny black-brown New Zealand stamp, is one of the gems in an award-winning Otago Postal History collection lovingly assembled over a lifetime by New Zealand enthusiast Greg Francis, which sold for €80,000 at the Spink auction.

The Kilkenny envelope was formerly owned and treasured by multi-millionaire Israeli businessman Joseph Hackmey, who sold it at an auction at Spink in New York in February 2009.

It is not known who sent the envelope to Mr Keogh in Kilkenny, because the inside letter is now missing. But, intriguingly, it was posted from New Zealand in 1863 at the time of the Central Otago Gold Rush - New Zealand's biggest-ever gold strike - which lured 1,500 miners, many from overseas, to the area.

Thanks to its tell-tale postmarks and date-stamps, it is known that the envelope took 89 days, or nearly 13 weeks, to make its tortuous 12,000-mile journey from New Zealand to Ireland.

It left Dunedin on or around January 19, 1863, and travelled by ship, possibly across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea and then overland, likely on the back of a camel, to the Mediterranean (as it was posted six years before the Suez Canal was opened in November 1869) and then on to London, where the envelope arrived safely on April 17, 1863.

Amazingly it reached Kilkenny the following day, on April 18, 1863.

And now - 150 years later - the envelope is worth much more than its weight in gold.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News